Add-ons add new functionality to Gecko-based applications such as Firefox, SeaMonkey and Thunderbird. There are two main types of add-on: Extensions add new features to the application, while Themes modify the application's user interface.
For both extensions and themes, Mozilla operates a repository at addons.mozilla.org, also known as AMO. When you submit add-ons to AMO they are reviewed, and after passing review they are made available to users. You don't have to submit add-ons to AMO, but if you do, users can take confidence in the fact that they have been reviewed, and you can benefit from AMO's visibility as a source for useful add-ons.
Add-ons can greatly affect the behaviour of the application that hosts them. We've developed a set of guidelines to help ensure that they provide a good experience to users. These guidelines apply for all sorts of add-ons, whether they are hosted at addons.mozilla.org or not.
Extensions add new functionality to Mozilla applications such as Firefox and Thunderbird. They can add new features to the browser, such as a different way to manage tabs, and they can modify web content to improve the usability or security of particular websites.
There are three different techniques you can use to build extensions: Add-on SDK-based extensions, manually bootstrapped restartless extensions, and overlay extensions.
- Add-on SDK extensions
- Restartless extensions
Develop extensions that don't require a browser restart.
- Overlay extensions
Develop traditional extensions using a XUL overlay.
If you can, it's advisable to use the Add-on SDK, which uses the restartless extension mechanism but simplifies certain tasks and cleans up after itself. If the Add-on SDK isn't sufficient for your needs, implement a manual restartless extension instead. Overlay extensions are mostly obsolete now, although there are still many of them in the wild.
For more information on choosing which technique to use, read this comparison.
No matter how you develop an extension, there are some guidelines you can follow to help ensure your extension provides as good a user experience as possible.
Most of the documentation assumes you're developing for Firefox Desktop. If you're developing for some other Gecko-based application, there are major differences you need to know about.
Themes are add-ons that customize the application's user interface. There are two sorts of themes: lightweight themes and complete themes.
Lightweight themes are much simpler to implement than complete themes, but provide very limited customization.
With complete themes you can make much deeper modifications to the application UI. The documentation for complete themes is out of date, but is linked to here as a possible basis for updated documentation.
Other types of add-ons
Search engine plugins are a simple and very specific type of add-on: they add new search engines to the browser's search bar.
Plugins help the application understand content that it does not natively support. We are in the process of deprecating support for these plugins, as they have a history of causing stability, performance, and security problems.